Have you ever heard one of those stories? I’m sure you have. The doctors gave up—they sent her home to rest as comfortably as possible until her demise. “There is nothing more we can do” they said. Confined to a wheelchair and suffering from constant and severe chest pain, she already had a bypass operation and they just couldn’t do another one because of all the scar tissue from previous surgeries. Then a relative sees an interview with one of the pioneers of using nutrition to heal people with heart disease. This 65-year-old lady, left to die by the mainstream medical establishment, checks into the program. Three weeks later she is out of her wheelchair, walking miles per day and after finishing the program, she continued her newfound life for another 31 years! She was wheeled in and she walked out. This was back in the 1960s.
This story in its many variations has replicated itself again and again. There is a new kind of doctor out there and a whole new way of looking at medicine in general. It’s still in its infancy, but it’s growing quickly and one day in the future, it will hopefully be the new normal. In 1903, Thomas Edison made a very bold prediction; “the doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame in diet and in the cause and prevention of diseases.” This is NOT what modern medicine does—but it’s changing and changing fast.
There’s a problem with our medical care
I am not exactly sure where things went wrong, but things have gone terribly wrong. For all of the “great advances in medical care” we have been told about over the last 50 years, why do 50% of Americans have either prediabetes or diabetes? Why is someone dying of a heart attack every 52 seconds? And although the rates of people dying of heart disease has dropped, the amount of heart disease has not. We invest millions and millions of dollars on medications for cancer, only to find out that many of them get FDA approval because they will keep someone alive for two weeks longer than what’s out there already.
Cures for different kinds of cancer? It’s isn’t coming from the pharmaceutical industry any time soon—at least something affordable isn’t. 70% of Americans take at least one prescription drug but they aren’t living longer than those in other countries. It is diet that accounts for 80-90% of the preventable diseases that are wreaking havoc on western society. Dr. Walter Willet is the chair of nutrition the Harvard School of Public Health. In regard to how modern medicine is always looking to provide drugs to attempt to fix peoples medical problems, he said, “The inherent problem is that most pharmacologic strategies do not address the underlying causes of ill health in Western countries, which are NOT drug deficiencies.”
Things are not getting better
I’m sure that most of you are aware that the average life expectancy—that is the number of years we live from birth—has expanded greatly since 100 or so years ago. As a matter of fact in the United States in 1900 the average life expectance was 47 and as of 2012 is was 78.7 and that is truly impressive. This is an almost 32 year gain. But there are three points to be aware of. First, that this trend actually has starting reversing itself, mostly due to the terrible western diet, lack of activity and exercise and the fact the 70% of all Americans are now either overweight or obese. Second, as impressive as this statistic might sound, the United States life expectancy is near the bottom of the list, number 27, our of the 34 free market democracies. Of all countries Israel is number 8 in the world while the United States is number 31. The third point is perhaps the most important thing to pay attention to. It may be that from a technical standpoint Americans are “living” longer, but for most, those “extra” years are filled with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or stroke. In short, length of life has increase but quality of life is poor and society is getter sicker.
In my recent article on what real preventative medicine is, I mentioned that the conventional wisdom is yearly doctor visits, getting a flu shot, taking a multi-vitamin, and good hygiene including dental hygiene. For those over 50, colonoscopy every 10 years and women should have periodic mammographies. Children should get vaccines from infancy. A blood test once a year after age 40 is also a great idea. As important as all this is, it isn’t truly preventative and more importantly, it doesn’t reverse disease. Our doctors really want to give us some quality of life so they try to keep our heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel disease and a lot more from getting even worse. I want to introduce you to some of my new friends who have turned all of this on its head. Friends I’ve never met, but as I have been listing to their lectures and reading their various studies, I feel like we have become best friends.
Things are slowly changing
Maybe some of these names will sound familiar to you, maybe they won’t. Come meet Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Michael Klaper, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Alona Pulde, Dr. Matt Lederman, and Dr. John McDougal. They are the pioneers of using nutrition as the prime medium for treating disease. There are hundreds and hundreds more doctors now involved. When you read about them or their disciples there is a common theme.
All of these physician came out of medical school with the hope of making a big difference and curing their patients. All were disillusioned. Some of them are internists, family physicians, cardiologist, and neurologists but they all found that at best, they were being managers of conditions and not doctors curing conditions. Let’s talk about the training they and all doctors receive.
Only one quarter of the medical schools in the United States offer a single course in nutrition. It used to be more. No medical schools demand of their doctors that they have a basic knowledge of exercise science and only one school even offers it as an elective. So now that we have phenomenal studies proving beyond a doubt that diet and exercise are the most powerful tools to heal what ails us, how is it that the very people we rely on for care are completely knowledge deficient in these two areas? That is unless they have self-educated or joined this new movement to save our health from all of the poor dietary habits we have amassed over the last 80 years. Things are so bad with nutritional training in medical schools that the California State Legislature passed a law mandating at least 12 hours (my dieticians have 4-6 YEARS of nutritional training) of nutrition in medicals schools in that state. But the California Medical Association and the California Academy of Family Physicians lobbied it down to 7 hours and then down to zero. So while courses in end-of-life care for the terminally ill are required, courses that can give a doctor the tools for curing disease are not required.
In part 2 of this article, we will start with an amazing picture—this picture might just be enough to motivate you to start making needed changes in your eating habits. We will also look at the changes that are indeed taking place and show you beyond a doubt how eating a more plant based diet will literally change your life for the better and “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.